How to write a customer success story for the construction industry
You’ll often hear me say that case studies are one of the most under-utilised tools in the construction industry’s toolbox. When written well, they have the potential to win you new clients by demonstrating why you’re a leading expert in your field. They are also great value – written once and able to be used in a variety of ways.
But I know not everyone is at a point in their business where they can afford to have case studies written for them. So I thought I would offer some tips to those of you writing your own case studies. You can write a simple Problem/Brief and Solution type case study. These are usually a couple of short paragraphs and you might use them in capability statements or on your website.
But if you want to write a longer, more compelling construction case study that will help you win new clients, then these are my tips.
You need to do some groundwork before you begin writing. Firstly, you need to choose a good project for your case study. It might be one that required an innovative solution, or excellent collaboration between a number of parties. It might be one that shows off a particular expert skill you have, or a new product/method that you’re using to improve outcomes. Whichever project you choose, ensure that others will be on board. Your case study will be stronger if you have the input and opinions of others.
Think about who your target audience is for the case study. What message do you want to get across? These things will assist with formulating interview questions.
Prepare a list of questions that you wish to ask the people involved whether they be engineers, town planners, suppliers or the client themselves. Frame your questions so you get more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. You want people to elaborate and hopefully provide you with some amazing quotes.
This sounds easy but can take some getting used to. You have to resist the urge to contribute to the conversation after you’ve asked a question. Give the interviewee time to think about and articulate their answer. Sometimes a moment of silence (not too long) is helpful.
And while the person is responding to your question, really listen to what they’re saying. They might answer another question you had. So you don’t need to ask it. Or they might say something that leads you to ask a better question than the one you had planned.
If you sense what I refer to as a “gold nugget moment”, dig deeper. Have the person elaborate on what they mean. You might just score a gold star statement you can use as a testimonial.
3. Break it up
Even though you’re writing a longer case study that’s more than just a paragraph on the brief and a paragraph on the solution, it’s still important to break it up. Think about how you want to introduce the case study – perhaps by giving some background on the client or the project.
Use paragraphs and where appropriate insert sub-headings. It’s rare that people will sit there and read an entire case study word for word unless they’re really interested.
By using paragraphs and adding subheadings, you make scanning the case study easier. This means people can more easily find what they’re interested in and read that part.
4. Simple language
A compelling, complex or detailed case study can be written in simple language. In fact, it should be. Simple language written in shorter sentences will help get your message across quickly and more efficiently. And this means that the person reading it will be more likely to absorb the information, and even act on it. This is even more important if your case study will be available online, as online information can be harder to scan and absorb if too complex.
The Oxford Guide to Plain English by Martin Cutts expands on ways to make the written word more simple. The preamble to the book explores the author’s experience with professionals who prefer clear, brief and easy to follow information. But something interesting that he notes is that it is often difficult for people to spot and fix unclear language that they have written.
I have an advantage in this respect as I was a primary school teacher for two decades. Instinctively, I use plain English to explain things because I know that’s the easiest way to convey information. But anyone can do it. My advice here would be to write as you would speak. To take an example from the Oxford Guide mentioned above:
He was conveyed to his place of residence in an intoxicated condition
written in plain, clearer language would be
He was carried home drunk.
5. Tell a story
Remember that a case study is a customer success story. You’re telling a story about your project. Imagine speaking that story to someone. Tell your best friend or your family about this great project you just completed. Record yourself.
By speaking it out loud, you’ll get clarity about the order you need to tell the story in and the plain English you want to use while telling it.
Whether you’re a builder, engineer, architect, tech developer or someone else in the construction industry, I hope the above tips help you when writing a case study.
It does take some practise to weave in all of the above with the information from your interviewee. But the more you write, the easier it gets. If you don’t have time or couldn’t think of anything worse than writing a case study but still want to reap the benefits, get in touch and I can quickly write one for you. Or follow me on YouTube for more tips about case studies and marketing your construction business.